March 2nd, 2013 ~ by admin

Chuck Moore: Part 2: From Space to GreenArrays

Part 2 of my abbreviated biography of Chuck H. Moore’s processor designs.  Part 1 covered the early days of Novix, and the RTX2000.

Patriot Scientific IGNiTE - Based on the Sh-Boom

Patriot Scientific IGNiTE – Based on the Sh-Boom

Moore was not content to just create one processor design, or one company.  In the 1980’s he also ran Computer Cowboys, a consulting/design company.  In 1985 he designed the Sh-boom processor with Russell H. Fish III.  This was a 32-bit stack processor, though with 16 general purpose registers, that was again designed with Forth in mind.  It was capable of running much faster then the rest of the system so Moore designed a way to run the processor faster then the rest of the board, and still keep things in sync, innovative at them time, and now standard practice.  The Sh-Boom was not a particularly wide success and was later licensed by Patriot Scientific through a company called Nanotronics, which Fish had transferred his rights to the Sh-Boom to in 1991.  Patriot rebranded and reworked the Sh-Boom as the PSC1000 and targeted it to the Java market.  Java byte code could be translated to run in similar fashion as Forth on the PSC1000 and at 100MHz, it was quick.  In the early 2000’s Patriot again rebranded the ShBoom and called the design IGNITE.  Patriot no longer makes or sells processors, concentrating only on Intellectual Property (Patent licensing).

After designing the Sh-Boom, and the Novix series, Moore developed yet another processor in 1990 called the MuP21.  This was the beginning of a what would be a common thread in Moore’s designs.  MISC (Minimal Instruction Set Computer), which is essentially an even simpler RISC design, multiprocessor/multicore, and efficiency have become the hallmarks of his designs.  The MuP21 was a 21 bit processor with only 24 instructions. At 20MHz performance was 80 MIPS as it could fetch four 5-bit instructions in a 20 bit word.  It was manufactured in a 40 pin DIP on a 1.2 micron process with 7000 transistors.

iTvcIn 1993 Moore designed the F21, again a 21 bit CPU based on the MuP21, designed to run Forth, and including 27 instructions.  It was fab’d by Mosis on a 0.8u process.  The F21 microprocessor contains a Stack Machine CPU (with a pair of stacks like the NC4000), a video i/o coprocessor, an analog i/o coprocessor, a serial network i/o coprocessor, an parallel port, a real time clock, some on chip ROM  and an external memory interface. Performance was 500 MIPS (this was an asynchronous design, so ‘clock speed’ is a bit of a misnomer) and transistor count had risen to about 15,000.  The F21 was made up through 1998, however the design continued to evolve.  A version of the F21 was developed called the i21, originally for Chuck Moore’s iTV Corporation, which was one of the very first set top Internet appliance companies.  It integrated additional featured such as infrared remote interface, modem DMA interface and a keyboard DMA interface. The F21 scaled well, and was tiny, remember, only 15,000 transistors, which at 0.18u takes up a VERY small die, and allowed performance to hit 2400MIPS @ 1.8V.  One could put a very large amount of these on a single die…..

Read More »

Posted in:
Research

February 21st, 2013 ~ by admin

Charles Moore: From FORTH to Stack Processors and Beyond

NRAO Radio Telescope

NRAO Radio Telescope

There are many greats of the CPU industry, some, such as Federico Faggin (designer of the 4004 and worked on the 8008, then founded Zilog) are fairly well known.  Others include Gelsinger and Meyer (of x86 fame) perhaps even Gordon Moore, of which a  ‘law’ is named.  Chuck Peddle and Bill Mensch designed the ubiquitous 6502 processor, but there were more, many more. Engineers whose names have been oft forgotten, but whose work has not.  The 1970’s and 80’s were the fast and the furious of processor designs.  Some designs were developed, sold, or canceled in weeks, months; years were not a period of time that was available to these designers, for in a year, a new technology would dictate a new design.

One of these designers is Charles H. Moore. (aka Chuck Moore).  Chuck is perhaps best known for inventing the FORTH programming language in 1968, originally to control telescopes.  It was a stack based language, and lended itself well to small microcomputers and microcontrollers.  Some microcontrollers even embedded a FORTH kernel in ROM.  It was also designed to be able to be ported to different architectures easily.  FORTH continues to be used today for a variety of applications.  However Chuck did not just invent a 1970’s programming language.

Read More »

Posted in:
Research